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When Basildon police community support officers Daniel Brady and Kyli Nice met the congregation at St Nicholas’ Church in Laindon it was the start of a fruitful relationship.
About three years ago, Daniel and Kyli were looking at ‘what was working in our communities and what wasn’t’, including Coffee with Cops.
“We noticed we were visiting the same sort of venues – shops and in the streets – and we wanted to do something a little different to reach a wider audience.”
PCSO Daniel Brady
One of the places they thought about was St Nicholas’ Church in Laindon which, being on a hill, acts as a focal point for the surrounding community. Then Covid struck and plans to contact the church were put on hold.
However, while patrolling through the churchyard during the first national Covid lockdown, Daniel and Kyli met a member of the congregation who told them a bench had been damaged.
“We introduced ourselves at a service and got on well so we asked if we could hold a Coffee with Cops there.
“This was about two years ago, so we were in the depths of Covid, but the church said we had come at the right time and were their Guardian Angels.
“Our relationship built from there. Since we started, we’ve seen the congregation grow.
“Initially we held events in the churchyard but now they can be inside or out, depending on the weather. We often tag on to the end of a Sunday service but we do Saturdays as well.
“It’s just nice that people take the time to talk to us.”
PCSO Daniel Brady
Priest-in-charge Father Andrei Petrine says when he first saw two uniformed police community support officers in the congregation he thought ‘what a blessing - people on duty and they are here’.
“We had experienced vandalism and things were broken but their very presence is a good signal to the community that this is a place of safety and we are going to provide that safety. And it’s a signal that we have a police presence here. Thank God for them!”
Father Andrei says the church’s mission is to provide spiritual sustenance but its social aspect is important, too.
“We are a church for the whole community, not just within our walls but for everybody in the area in times of need, should they wish it.”
If the weather is good, Coffee with Cops is held in the churchyard, otherwise it’s inside the ancient church.
“When we are outside, sitting drinking coffee and chatting, people will see us and come over to talk. It’s a good bridge between us and the community.”
The relationship has proved fruitful in other ways.
Not only did Daniel and Kyli use their local knowledge to attract funding for a new bench from West and Coe funeral directors – to replace the damaged bench they were initially alerted about – they also advised the church on crime prevention measures and continue to patrol the grounds.
“The church now has CCTV so any further acts of criminal damage can be accounted for and those responsible prosecuted.”
PCSO Daniel Brady
One member of the congregation, having got to know Daniel and Kyli, decided to apply to join Essex Police.
“It’s a great testimony to their presence here that someone found a secular vocation through them. St Nicholas’ is not just about the spiritual side, which is the heart of who we are, but it extends to all areas of life.”
Licensed lay minister Susan Shadrake says people often go up to the 800-year-old church for a bit of peace and quiet or to walk their dogs because the churchyard has ‘acres of glorious meadow’.
“When we have Coffee with Cops, we hope a few of them will stop and have a chat with the police about any concerns they might have, which reinforces and cements the local community feeling that their concerns have been listened to.
“And, of course, we also hope the friendly atmosphere surrounding Coffee with Cops might encourage visitors to step inside the church and learn that it is not as intimidating as they thought. But there is no pressure on people to join the church and no pressure on the congregation to speak to the PCSOs.
“Sometimes Kyli and Daniel will attend a service and bring along people who are a bit vulnerable who would enjoy being part of a community. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a chat.
“Throughout Covid, Coffee with Cops helped us to reassure people and it may well have brought new people to our congregation. But, even if people just stopped to have a chat and haven’t come back, at least they can relate to the church better and know we are here for them if they need us again.”
Licensed lay minster Susan Shadrake
If you see something which you feel needs police attention, or you have information about a crime, anti-social behaviour or criminal activity, ring 999 if it is an emergency or a crime in progress, otherwise you can report it online where you can also speak to an online Live Chat operator on weekdays between 10am and 9pm. Alternatively, you can ring 101.
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